We're thrilled to be scaling up with MassChallenge as MassChallenge scales to Texas!
MassChallenge is a global network of zero-equity startup accelerators that is headquartered in the United States with locations in Boston, Israel, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK. To date, 1,495 MassChallenge alumni have raised over $3 billion in funding, generated over $2 billion in revenue, and created over 80,000 total jobs.
This year, MassChallenge is running an inaugural program in Texas. As a company that is founded, headquartered, and proud to be rooted in Texas as we scale globally, we here at re:3D are excited to be part of this cohort of 84 startups from 11 countries in a program run in our hometown. These startups are solving problems in industries from high-tech, health care, clean energy, social issues and beyond.
Not only do we get to be collaborators alongside this cohort of high-impact entrepreneurs from around the world and in a program rooted in the Texas startup community we call home, but also re:3D will receive access to MassChallenge’s global network, world-class mentoring from experts, tailored programming, free co-working space, and access to corporate partners. The accelerator culminates in August 2018 at the MassChallenge Texas Awards Ceremony, where selected startups will pitch for the opportunity to win a portion up to $500K in no-equity awards. As we scale up the work we are doing and move the needle toward realizing our vision, getting access to these resources in real-time and on a day-to-day basis is paramount.
We are grateful for the opportunity to join forces with this global community of support who likewise share our commitment to strengthening global innovation. Follow the journey and learn more at texas.masschallenge.org!
Meet up at the Digital Media Women’s Day Event where Morgan will be giving a lightning talk over burgers and beers! Access the event page and register for that event using the password Hamburg+VIP+2018
If you’re just tuning in, the winner of the Gigabot given away through our 2017 Gigaprize is an unbelievably deserving organization called Magic Wheelchair. We thought you might enjoy learning a little bit more about what they do and how they will be using Gigabot. We guarantee it’ll bring a smile to your face.
The Origin Story
Life for kids who are in wheelchairs often have a difficult life. Sometimes their local schools have failed to get an ada inspector in to make sure it’s accessible for them, they are often in and out of hospital, it can be hard for them to socialize are just some of the issues they encounter. But Magic Wheelchair is trying to make their lives a little bit better. Magic Wheelchair is a non-profit which “builds epic costumes for kiddos in wheelchairs — at no cost to families.” That’s a mission that resonated strongly with the public as well as our Gigaprize judging panel, ultimately crowning this Oregon-based organization the winner among a strong group of contenders.
The idea was born out of a father’s love and creative energy. Ryan Weimer, the brainchild behind it all, conceived the idea after making a costume for his then three-year-old son, Keaton, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy. The experience was life-changing and eye-opening for both Keaton and Ryan.
People seemed to look past his “disability;” they looked past his wheelchair and saw this cool kiddo cruising around in a pirate ship. Where normally other kids who didn’t know Keaton would stare from a distance, this costume created an immediate and intense level of inclusion. Kiddos swarmed him in his Pirate Ship Costume! That experience was amazing for all of us. As a dad, I looked with tears in my eyes as I finally was able to see people looking at my son like I do. I thought about other kiddos and families like mine that would, in my mind, love to have this same experience. That is the origin story of Magic Wheelchair.
“We have a Builder’s Manual which lays out the process, helps our volunteers put a build team together, and also helps them in getting their community involved by fundraising and reaching out for local community support,” Ryan explains. “This is a wonderful way to build awareness in a community about families and kiddos like mine.”
Their first year, the organization built eight costumes, tripling to 24 their second year, and topping out at 50 last year. Their volunteer-based process and Builder’s Manual allows them to have a wider reach than if they were to rely on just one centralized headquarters team. “These are built all over the country! Local builders building for local kiddos.”
They’ve also received some amazing support along the way, building a relationship with the Stan Winston School of Character Arts. “The co-founders Matt and Erich both serve on the board of Magic Wheelchair, and as part of this amazing connection all of our volunteers get access to the school,” Ryan says. “We have cream of the crop special effects artists helping our build teams! The school has completely changed how I take a build on.”
The Magic Wheelchair and re:3D Worlds Collide
Costume-building has always been a strong use case for 3D printing.
It’s often faster and cheaper than the alternatives, which could be anything from building and sculpting pieces by hand (time-intensive), or getting custom pieces made by a third party (costly). 3D printing also allows for quick and easy replication of parts- design one piece and you can just as easily print several for multiple costumes. We have quite a few Gigabot owners making custom costumes for Halloween, Comic-Cons, and cosplay events.
Through the collision of these two worlds and the power of social media, word of the Gigaprize found its way to Ryan.
“We had a volunteer who met us at the Salt Lake City Comic-Con send us a message through Facebook to apply,” Ryan recounts. “We saw the opportunity and knew we had to go for it!”
The value of this technology in their line of work is unbelievably exciting to Ryan and the Magic Wheelchair team.
This allows us to do so many things in-house: from building kits, to making builds easier, to being able to do really specific detailed pieces and duplicating them for future builds. It really adds to that epic quality that we can kick out. 3D printers are quickly becoming commonplace in fabrication and special effects, so it’s going to be incredible having such an amazing printer in our hands. We have already had some 3D artists reach out to help, and we have a solid connection with Pixologic and the Zbrush community. Sky’s really the limit here!
Future Plans: Shoot for the Stars
Magic Wheelchair’s impact and growth each year has been nothing short of impressive, and 2018 is panning out to be no different.
Though the first costume of each year is always a surprise, they can share the news that they’ll be returning to a favorite annual event: San Diego Comic-Con.
“This year we will be headed back to San Diego Comic-Con for a Star Wars-themed set of builds,” Ryan says. “We’re stoked!”
He’s especially thrilled that they’re collaborating with artists that currently work or have worked in the Star Wars franchise.
“I feel included.”
Our goal with each Gigaprize we run is to get Gigabot into the hands of a deserving group who will put the machine to work doing good. Magic Wheelchair absolutely exemplifies this.
The work they do has ample room for a 3D printer to make a serious impact on their process, with the goal of allowing them to grow their reach by creating costumes faster and more affordably.
Magic Wheelchair’s impact is very real for the recipients of their work, which, as Ryan explains, transcends the category of “costumes.” “What we really are building are experiences,” Ryan explains. “Experiences that allow that barrier of ‘disability’ to essentially be swallowed up by these epic costumes.”
Ryan has been able to see that experience firsthand from day one when he built the very first costume for what would end up being Magic Wheelchair’s first recipient: his son Keaton.
“Keaton mentions this in every interview when he is asked what is his favorite thing about these costumes,” Ryan recounts. “Without skipping a beat he says, ‘I feel included.’ It’s such a beautiful thing.”
Magic Wheelchair relies on its network of hardworking and selfless volunteers. Consider volunteering your time for an experience that’s equally as rewarding for the people behind the costume as it is for the one wearing it. Learn more: https://www.magicwheelchair.org/volunteers
With two WeWork Creator Awards (and two wins!) under our belt, we thought you might enjoy some quotable nuggets of our journey from the Austin stage to New York City. We hope we can inspire another Creator out there to enter for yourself!
A Silver Lining in the Eye of a Hurricane
Everything started back in June of last year when we won the $180,000 Scale Award at the WeWork Regional Creator Awards in Austin.
That cash from WeWork allowed us, as Head of Engineering Matthew Fiedler likes to say, to shorten a year-long process down to six months – that of creating a pellet extruder prototype. R&D Intern Robert Oakley and Matthew have been hard at work on the design, which we got to show off at the Global Finals.
We also established a more permanent presence in Puerto Rico, spurred on by our participation in the Parallel18 accelerator program.
We never could have imagined that just months after starting that program, not one but two of our offices would be hit by catastrophic hurricanes – Harvey in Houston and Maria in Puerto Rico. Our offices were spared damage, but what the twin natural disasters did do is reinforce our belief in our mission of creating a system to take plastic trash, grind it up, and 3D print with it.
With Hurricane Maria and the subsequent loss of running water in Puerto Rico, there is no shortage of plastic water bottles on the island. An island community is exactly the kind of environment in which a system like this would do so much good. Rather than resorting to shipping plastic waste to the mainland, a machine that could 3D print with recycled plastic could do the double-duty of creating useful objects in an isolated area while simultaneously dealing with the plastic problem.
We’re excited about the possibility of creating a machine that could be so useful in such an environment, and we also feel privileged to be in Puerto Rico working with some of the most driven, motivated people.
“It is a really optimistic place right now,” Samantha remarked. “People are really inspired.” Many millennials, she’s noticed, have thrown themselves into the task of rebuilding in the aftermath of the hurricane, leveraging technology to create a new future. “They believe in their island, and I’d say the sense of nationalism is higher now.”
Winning the WeWork Creator Awards in Austin allowed us to start hiring in Puerto Rico, and the latest win will afford us to continue.
Photo by Parallel18
A Million Bucks
Winning the Scale Award in Austin was a big deal for us, so getting the word that we’d be one of eight finalists vying for $1 million at the Creator Awards Global Finals in New York City was huge.
You already know what that crazy week was like (and if you don’t…), so I’ll fast-forward to the main event.
J. Kevin White of Global Vision 2020 and Samantha are the last two left sitting in the room offstage where all the finalists were being held. Wearing noise-cancelling headphones, they’re unaware that everyone is being awarded money, and that both of them will be getting $1 million. Samantha recalls the thoughts running through her head in the moment.
When we saw everyone but us leave the room, we both looked at each other and were confused. We considered that perhaps the winner had been revealed and we were receiving a side award or other commitment of support from WeWork or a partner. We were in shock that there could be a chance we might be receiving 1st and 2nd place.
They’re brought on stage. Samantha’s face goes through a rapid-fire sequence of emotions.
“When we were brought on stage everything around us seemed to slow down,” Samantha remembers. “Kevin has become a friend in this process and while I recall him standing there, everything else was a blur.”
The first thought Samantha says entered her head when she realized they’d both won was happiness that the whole team was there to experience the moment, whether in person in the audience or via livestream in Texas or Puerto Rico. This included longtime friend and mentor Seba, currently Parallel18‘s Executive Director, whom we met back in 2013 when he was the Executive Director of Startup Chile.
But, she adds, “I’ll be honest, a week later it hasn’t set in.”
“Winning itself was surreal,” she says. “Every morning I wake up and have to remind myself that Wednesday night really happened.”
No Such Thing as Overnight Success
It’s been a long road to this moment.
re:3D was born in 2013, and five years later nearly to the day, this 2018 win has been our biggest cash influx since our inception. Patience and perseverance have been the name of the game. To finally have in our hands the means to push full-speed toward our mission of 3D printing with trash, it can seem unreal.
Things could be so hard and lonely at times that it seems really unbelievable that we now have such a perfect partner (WeWork). I’m worried that at any moment it will set in and I’m going to break down in hysterics, because several times a day I’m overloaded with gratitude. Kevin and I spoke on the phone last night, and his experience has been very similar. I’m so thankful that we can share this experience together.
The WeWork win isn’t big for us only because of the size of the prize, it’s the type of partner we see in them – an organization with a similar mindset and vision to our own.
Although the win may not have completely sunk in for Samantha, she’s caught herself pausing multiple times a day to reflect on the newfound peace she’s felt lately. “Knowing that we have the resources to scale & care for our team & community,” she explains, “but more importantly, that we have a partner we respect and who supports our open-source, social-focused vision.”
The big Creator Awards win means a lot of different things to our team.
It means the resources to work on a major R&D project, the ability to grow our time, time to focus on telling the stories of our customers, health insurance for the team. re:3D’s Head of Engineering, Matthew, added that the win provided “validation that there are other people who share our vision.”
And we’ve only just begun.
“The thing I love the most is knowing that the journey is just getting started,” says Samantha. “Not only are we excited to grow with WeWork, but also the other Creator Awards winners and future Creators we will get to know in 2018.”
And as for those future Creators out there, some wisdom from someone who’s gone through it all?
“The experience is so much more than the awards or winning,” Samantha adds. “You, your team, and your community have everything to gain by submitting your application!”